Once upon a time there was a promising sprite named Social Media. She was a free-spirited child, beguiling the marketing world with her gift of gab and contagious enthusiasm. In her early years, Social was the talk of the town, a free gift that kept on giving. Kingdoms with odd names like Facebook and Twitter sprouted around her, providing seemingly boundless territory in which Social could shine.
Alas as she matured, mad King Zuckerberg put a tax on her, shackling the once-free Social. Now constrained, Social was forced to grovel among the hoi polloi in the marketing corral, a fallen star beseeching the game-changing luminaries to restore her to her rightful place. King Zuckerberg, enjoying the last laugh, took Social as his bride and required all who wanted to see her to pay for that right, making him rich beyond fairy tale dreams. The End.
Or is it? To answer that question, I interviewed three very different CMOs, all of whom are joining me on a panel at Social Media Shake-up 2015 on June 9th. The topic, "Why CMOs Are Not Investing More in Social," is a clear-eyed look at present day "pay-to-play" social media realities and how CMOs are adjusting accordingly. Here are a few of the highlights that essentially represent the tale of two socials - the promising, free-spirited sprite and the older, recalcitrant princess.
Lots of Promise, Occasionally Realized
Katharine Mobley, CMO at WeCareCard, believes that social hasn't lost its luster. "Social plays an enormous role in our company; it is the very being of web-based cause funding," she notes. Getting the WeCareCard for a personal cause is just the start, and by no means is it a guarantee that the cardholder will get their desired funding. "In order to raise money on the web, you have to not only tell a story but you have to have an audience to tell it to, and social media provides that platform," explains Mobley.
This is where expectations and realities start to get dicey. "Customers see videos go viral and think they can achieve the same goals, but it doesn't happen without A LOT of legwork, a good network you can openly communicate your story to, and one that is willing to not only SHARE it, but donate to it," she cautions. Brands, like WeCareCard customers, also have this problem, since long gone are the days when they could simply share content and the consumers would see it, let alone respond.
As the relatively new CMO at American Family Care, Bill Koleszar has three top priorities: driving patient volume, investing in creating a national brand, and solidifying his marketing infrastructure. Notably absent is social media. Why? "Social would need to become measurable, scalable, and cost-effective above and beyond other areas in which we invest human and financial capital. Having just two of those three would fall short relative to our goal of driving clinic traffic," he reports.
Koleszar concedes that social may have an upside for his brand, however. Because Facebook is the predominant network for the discussion of health-related issues, as well as sharing positive and negative experiences, he expects that platform to be more integral to AMC marketing in the near future. "We update our own presence regularly, but I also know we can do better - and we will," he concludes.
Unbridled Affection for Sharing
As a long-time media maven and former CMO of The Weather Channel, Scot Safon has seen the power of social media to spread the word first-hand. "People love to share weather pictures and video, and much of that video is critical to weather news coverage, where The Weather Channel excels on every platform," notes Safon. Part of that success, he acknowledges, may be due to being a media company. "Media companies are probably more comfortable and more nimble with developing social media content," he explains, which gives them a distinct advantage over other brand categories.
As good as media companies are at creating content that could go "viral," few are willing to take a wait and see approach. Instead, Safon explains that boosting posts on Facebook was standard practice at The Weather Channel. "The overlay of paid social has allowed marketers to target audience segments with very specialized, very relevant 'fire starters,' he adds. The conclusion here should be fairly obvious--if even brands in the content creation business need to support their "organic" efforts with paid media, King Zuckerberg reigns supreme.
A Future Yet Written
So how does this tale end? Is organic social truly dead for most marketers? The short answer is "no," especially if these marketers seek to integrate social into their ad campaigns or, better yet, embed it into their products. Safon cites the success ABC has had with shows like "Scandal." "They constructed the shows so that their core audience can have fun on social media throughout the show, and they've created a situation where half the fun is watching Twitter throughout ABC primetime," he explains. With this as inspiration, it's up to you, the marketer, to write your own ending.